Jeff Barry, a Faringdon, Oxfordshire based Master Saddler, is November’s ETN/SMS Bench Saddle of the Month.

The award, presented in conjunction with the Society of Master Saddlers (SMS), recognises those whose good practice is making a difference in the saddlery industry. 

Jeff was nominated by one of his customers, Sandra Keen, who says: “Jeff not only makes beautiful, bespoke leatherwork but is brilliant at cost effective repairs too.

“He never tries to sell a new one when the old one can be skilfully repaired.

“Jeff is knowledgeable and delivers great customer service. He embodies the commitment, craftsmanship, innovation and pride in his work that makes him a great ambassador for the craft.”

As a youngster, Jeff was constantly making things from Lego, Meccano, Airfix kits or from wood or metal.

“My father was an engineer, I guess I got it from him,” he says.

Saddler working

With no equestrian background, Jeff’s route into saddlery was one of chance. “I was just lucky enough to meet a saddler who needed an apprentice and the rest is history,” he explained.

The workshop where Jeff is based forms part of a larger business, Asti Equestrian being a tackshop, livery yard and riding school.

With a long career under his belt, Jeff doesn’t feel the industry has changed significantly over the years.

“From a rural workshop point of view, I’m sure a saddler from 100 years ago would fit right in. Although with modern materials and easy access to suppliers all over the world, some things are easier,” he added. 

  • See the November issue of ETN to read about Jeff’s more unusual creations in leather – and his Radio 4 habit.

If you’d like to nominate a bench saddler…

Email editor@equestriantradenews.com and tell us why they deserve to feature in ETN. Please include the saddler’s name and business name too. Candidates must be SMS members based in the UK or overseas.